Baton Rouge football coaches react to new LHSAA postseason plans

Baton Rouge football coaches react to new LHSAA postseason plans

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA)  announced Friday that the football postseason would no longer be split between private and public school. While some coaches welcomed the change, others had some trepidations.

Eddie Bonine, the executive director of the LHSAA, said the sports association did not follow constitutional procedure when instituting the split back in 2013.

"[To] stand before you today is very uncomfortable. I also want to let all of you know that there is a sense of frustration," Bonine said at a press conference. "To make those forms of kinds of changes has to be done by the executive committee not from the floor of the general assembly."

As it stands right now, things will return to the way they were, with five separate classes based on school enrollment.

For some coaches, like Scotlandville High School's Robert Valdez, the announcement came as welcomed news.

"Then you'll be one 5A champion, one 4A champion. A champion in every class and everyone will understand that's the champion. That's the team saw it all the way through," Valdez said.

As part of the transition, the number of championship games will return to five. Under the split system, nine teams took home trophies.

"I think we're moving toward the area of trying to give everybody an award for participating and I think it takes a little bit away from the essence of the work ethic and the competing and everybody doing their best to be the champion," Valdez said.

And while other coaches did not oppose the switch, they had some trepidation.

David Masterson coaches at Northeast High School, which is a public school. Before the split, he said he was frustrated that public schools faced what he described as "inequities," ranging from smaller coaching staffs to restriction on recruitment.

"This particular charter school has the whole parish to choose from, yet I have this small area," Masterson said. "Rather than address these inequities, I think the drastic step was to split and I was against it then. I would still like to see us come back together, but there has to be some sort of equality in the sense of how the programs are run."

Still, he said recent actions by the LHSAA are giving him hope, including the decision to suspend Amite High School in the middle of the playoffs after a bench-clearing.

"That's the rule, you knew what it was. I was impressed that they stuck to their guns and didn't fold this time like they have in the not too far past," Masterson said.

There are other options on the table for organizing the teams, such as splitting them between metro and rural areas. The full explanation of how such a split would work is still not fully laid out.

With the possible metro/rural split up for debate at the upcoming annual conference, Masterson questions the timing of Friday's announcement, wondering if it is a way to force the adoption of the new split proposal.

"Why did you find it? Did it just fall out in front of you, or was it looking for a way to void it? And if you're looking for a way to void the principals' decisions then I've got question marks on what you're proposing now," he said.

The annual conference is scheduled for the end of January. At that point, the school principals in attendance will discuss the metro-rural option.

As for the winners of championship games under the old split system, both coaches agreed those titles should be honored with no questions asked and no changes to the record books.

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